How two agencies published the same Banksy-related idea within hours 🍟

Daniel Stieber
Oct 12, 2018 · 5 min read

On Monday, DDB Vienna and a Senior Creative Director from TBWA\ANG published the same idea for their client McDonald’s. All that happened within hours and people including me were wondering how something like this could be possible. I made one of the concepts and here is my part of the story.

Left: TBWA\ANG, right: DDB Vienna // Source: AdWeek

When I read the comment of @maltesecreative below my latest Instagram post, showing an idea for McDonald’s, I couldn’t believe my eyes:

“This idea was online before”

What? How can someone have posted the same idea before us?

A meeting about duplicates

few days earlier I sat in a morning meeting with PKP BBDO and DDB Vienna, to go over the importance of researching in web archives before executing ideas.

Having more awareness of what has been done, should help to avoid duplicates. A good intention. Sometimes it really looks like every idea and execution has already been done somewhere else and it is hard to come up with something original. And since the internet doesn’t forget or forgive, no ad belongs to a region or country anymore. Everyone can see and compare everything.

I now have a better understanding of what that means…

The issue with big brands

Clients like McDonald’s increase the challenge: All over the world, McDonald’s has the same Brand DNA and uses the same five or six brand assets over and over again.

Iconic McDonald’s Ads // Source: AdWeek

It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do or what you eat — you know what’s going on when you see the iconic colors and shapes.

That means hundreds of agencies with thousands of creatives try to create something new and original for the same brand with the same instruments every single day.

The process

On Friday 5th of October, Banksy made headlines with his auction stunt. Over the weekend, the social media feeds were filled with the news–we all have seen it.

I haven’t really thought about using it for an idea until I stumbled over a post of The Lichteneckers on Monday. First I thought about Rolling Boards and letting something come out from the bottom, but I quickly dismissed the thought: if there is an idea, it should be online very quickly. While mentally going through clients I recently worked for, I finally came up with something: What if we use McDonald’s visual minimalism and show the fries coming out of the frame. A creative comment to the current media topic, portraying the art of fries.

A mail with a rough mockup to Andreas Spielvogel and Thomas Tatzl, the Executive Creative Directors of DDB Vienna, the lead agency for McDonald’s Austria. They loved it and then, things went on very fast:

They wrote a message to Jörg Pizzera, Marketing Director of McDonald’s Austria, and even though he was sitting in an importing meeting, he gave clearance within minutes. Meanwhile Andreas wrote a great copy and Art Director Babette Brunner was working on the visual execution. It should go online on social media as fast as possible: DDB and McDonald’s Austria posted it on their Facebook page, DDB submitted it on Ads of the World and I proudly published it on my own Instagram account. It was so cool that we brought it out so fast — but little did we know, what was going on more than a thousand kilometers away on the beautiful island of Malta.

Sometimes you finish second

Back to the comment on my Instagram post.

Wondering what was going on, I checked out the link — and there it was: The same idea, the same client, a different execution. Created and posted by Richard Agius hours before our first post went online. What?

All the proudness and good feelings were flushed away within seconds. All that was left was the fact, that we were not the first ones who published this online, and how this will look now. I was confused and also a little bit afraid of the reactions that could follow. I can only assume Richard was not amused either when he saw our execution.

First reactions followed and TBWA\PARIS started to make fun of us on Twitter and Joe la pompe commented on our Ads of the World post. This all can’t be true.

Then something unexpected happened: AdWeek published an article followed by a discussion on art vs. ads and a lot of love and hate for using Banksy’s stunt in an ad for McDonald’s on Facebook.

While I was happy that the discussion was more about art than on the fact, that two agencies published the same idea, I really wanted to show my respect to Richard and the fact, that he was first in line. So I posted an alternative version with a twinkle in the eye:

A salute to Richard Aigus 🍻

Richard wrote an appreciating comment with his thumbs up and it made me feel a lot better.

I have a clear conscience since I know that we had no idea about the other execution before and there was no intention of copying or stealing the idea. I think I still favour Babettes minimalistic version but I really congratulate and take my hat off to the fast execution in Malta. This whole story is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve seen in my few years of advertising.

Closing thoughts

Thinking back to the morning meeting about duplicates, I can only laugh and notice how hard it is to do a research, when you want to bring something out so quickly and badly. But lesson learned, just do a hashtag search next time Daniel.

Meanwhile both versions got covered in multiple magazines including AdWeek, Designtaxi and My Modern Met and also reached thousands of likes, shares and comments on their social media plattforms. This is incredible.

I’m proud and thankful about what happened and I think the whole story is a wonderful incident for both agency networks and of course the client.

Ideas happen. Maybe on some places faster than on others, but I think if they are strong, inspire discussions and represent the brand, they are all worth being out there.

Daniel Stieber

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Conceptioner, developer, marketer, thinker and doer.

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